India had set an aggressive target of 30% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) for its education sector by 2020. Success in achieving this ambitious goal has exciting possibilities if India partners intelligently with foreign universities and if Indian legislators give due cognizance to the need for reform of the current Indian education system, introducing flexibility in the existing rigid regulations. Policymakers believe that awareness of the prevailing drawbacks and acting to correct the tradition-bound precepts would achieve the intended purposes of employability, global exposure, innovation, research, and world-class education. Here are some excerpts from the thought-paper published by me, which aims to offer an all-encompassing assessment of the inclusion of foreign universities in the Indian education system, with focus on how such a move would benefit Indian students and give value-addition to the country's education sector.
The National Education Policy (NEP), 2020 pushes for a legislative framework to open the doors for select foreign universities (from among the top global 100) to set up campus in India, giving them special dispensation for their operations "on par with domestic autonomous institutions." Similarly, the cross-border education plan will encourage high-performing Indian universities to operate overseas. This synergy between Indian and foreign academic institutions aims to promote cross-cultural exchange and technical know-how as also to boost tax revenue. The knowledge and expertise gained through investment in people and innovation will, it is hoped, allow the world to maintain a technological leading edge, build a strong global economy, and improve the quality of life.
The thrust of the NEP 2020 is to re-imagine Indian higher education as learning and broad mental development, getting away from the age-old rote learning. The curriculum will be planned to meet global standards to attract students worldwide and achieve the target of "internationalization at home". In so doing, Indian universities could benefit from a clear, concise learning process, which nurtures students in applying the knowledge gained through simple, practical assessments. The improvement in inherent talents and learning skills would broaden perspectives and better prepare students for real-world challenges. The plan to transplant the "study abroad dream" to home ground could also save a total foreign exchange outflow of Rs 40,000 crore per year, allowing India to use its reserves of capital effectively.
The major advantages of allowing foreign universities to set up shop in India would be curbing the "brain drain", which increased by 85% in the decade 2003-2013; raise the standard of Indian education by providing further research possibilities as also better infrastructure at the university level; be more convenient and less costly for Indian students than actually going abroad; and brighten employment opportunities.
India has long been recognized as a hub for talent and has the highest employable population, as reflected in published statistics. Foreign universities would have the opportunity to harness this talent and use it to augment their own institutions by means of exchange programmes and other collaborative measures. In general, Indians are considered highly academic and knowledgeable and have made their mark in several professions abroad such as medicine, law, and engineering. Collaboration with Indian counterparts is expected to enhance the academic outlook of foreign universities.
Another advantage from the proposed entry of foreign universities is the element of competition it would infuse in the higher education sector. Foreign universities would vie with existing universities to attract quality researchers, professors, and students. In order to compete effectively with foreign universities for industry projects, talented students and faculty of the Indian universities will be motivated to raise their own standards. Such healthy competition can help improve the overall quality of education in existing universities. This not only has monetary benefits in the form of foreign exchange, but it also boosts India's soft power.
While the merits of cross-border education propounded by the NEP 2020 are clear, the Policy needs legislative support to become law. Experts in the field have differing opinions on whether the envisaged goals would be a value-add. Implementation of the new regime could lead to significant distortions in the higher education sector, given its increase in education cost which will create inequalities between the privileged and underprivileged student bodies, challenging the local institutions and taking advantage of the market. Further, land acquisition issues, acquiring skilled labour, profit repatriation, and uncertainty on the status of current laws are constraints to implementation of the proposal for transformation of higher education in India.
The need of the hour is to reform the Indian university system with the help of substantial public investment and structural reforms, which can improve the quality of Indian universities. Once Indian universities have developed sufficiently, then foreign universities should be allowed in the country. It's never too late.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.